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Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 Sandy Balls

MarathonTalk & its annual run camp at Sandy Balls, New Forest, UK

I went on the MarathonTalk camp as I’ve listened to it as a fantastic podcast since it started in January 2010. February 2016 was the fourth camp they’ve run, and it always sells out fast as they have a large and loyal following of listeners.

The camp is based at the hilariously-named Sandy Balls. It’s a holiday village of lodges based in the beautiful New Forest in the south of the UK. Lodges are around 6 people, have single or double rooms, and basic kitchen facilities.

I’ve set out what we did below but everything was optional, so you could do as much or as little as you liked.

Friday night

Friday night started with toasting marshmallows round a fire. A great way to keep warm and start to make friends.



Saturday morning we drove in convoy to a local parkrun, Moors Valley. After a quick group photo pre start, we all set off round the beautiful one lap course. It was immediately one I decided I’d like to come back to – wide trails through woods and finishing by some lakes. You can read Olympian Liz Yelling’s write up of running it with her daughter.

The runcampers swelled the parkrun to its biggest ever numbers (469 finishers) and gave the coffee shop a great run too.


Next up was a super interesting session about the psychology of running. MarathonTalk cohost Tom interviewed Liz Yelling on stage about the mental challenges she faced. Professor Andy Lane talked us through coping tips and strategies before and during a race.

Liz Yelling & Andy Lane being interviewed on stage, as seen from the MarathonTalk kit stall that Dan & I were running.

A big theme was setting realistic expectations and deciding what you’ll be satisfied by. To really hit a PB, particularly with long distance running, you have to be very strategic about when to build and peak.

Another major message was having process goals as well as outcome goals. So maybe you want to ‘run relaxed’, not just have a finish time goal. This helps you be more satisfied with your performance, even if you miss your time goal.

Speed session

There was an afternoon speed session around a mile away from the camp.  Everyone was divided into groups depending on 5k time. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break. That was repeated four times.

Evening entertainment

The evening entertainment was introduced by Tom & Martin. We all got excited playing some quickfire games to win some headphones from sponsors of the weekend AfterShokz.

Next up Martin interviewed Vassos Alexander.  Being involved in radio, it wasn’t surprising he spoke very well and had everyone interested and entertained with his personal running stories.

Dan led a fantastic quiz. Having previously won Mastermind with his specialist topic of ‘history of the marathon’, Dan knows both his running and his general knowledge. There was an additional music round from Tony who contributes a regular entertaining slot on MarathonTalk called ‘Tony’s Trials’.

I’d designed some MT answer sheets and while people carried on drinking, Dan and I did some high speed adding up to find the winners.

There was a short night head torch run for those who fancied it.


Sunday had options for an 8 or 16 mile run on New Forest trails, or a 10 mile handicap event devised by Tom, known as ‘The Eliminator’.

Much more friendly than its title, we all had to decide how long we wanted to take to run a hilly 10 mile route. The aim was for everyone to arrive back at the start as close to 12 as possible.

I had a brilliant time running with new friends.


Wrap up

Final words from Tom & Martin, followed by a big meal that just about managed to cope with lots of hungry runners.  Here are some of us looking cool and feeling comfy in the ‘leisure T’ I designed for MarathonTalk kit.

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